The 2020 Nissan Sentra starts at $19,310 in the United States and at $18,798 in Canada, before freight and delivery charges.
Attractive design, bang for the buck, low fuel consumption.
No Apple CarPlay/Android Auto in base trim, wide turning diameter, some annoying cost-cutting measures.
If there’s a compact sedan that deserves some attention this year, it’s the 2020 Nissan Sentra. Considered for a long time as a bland and uncompetitive car, but that still continued to sell relatively well, the Sentra has been entirely redesigned for the 2020 model year.
This new generation stands out especially for its exterior design, but also for its comfortable cabin and, as always, its interesting value. First of all, the 2020 Nissan Sentra borrows many of the midsize Nissan Altima’s styling cues, which seem to be slightly better adapted to the Sentra’s smaller dimensions. That’s our subjective opinion, of course.
The SR variant of the Sentra also benefits from a few body colours that feature a black-painted roof, creating a neat contrast and a more dynamic look. This new 2020 Nissan Sentra is much more noticeable on the road than the preceding generation. That should help it stand out from its competitors, namely the Honda Civic, the Toyota Corolla, the Hyundai Elantra, the Kia Forte, the Subaru Impreza, the Mazda3 and the Volkswagen Jetta.
Under the hood, it receives a new and more powerful engine, a 2.0L four cylinder with 149 horsepower and 146 pound-feet of torque. The Sentra is no hot rod, but for the daily drive, that’s plentiful. In addition, the continuously variable automatic transmission works extremely well, even though the automotive press that we are prefers the feel of a conventional automatic with fixed gear ratios. We must point out that Nissan’s CVT simulates upshifts during hard acceleration.
The 2020 Nissan Sentra’s city/highway/combined fuel economy numbers are set at 29/39/33 mpg in the U.S., and at 8.0/6.0/7.1 L/100 km in Canada. Two things to mention here: the SR trim is heavier and less aerodynamic, so its consumption is slightly higher, and in Canada, the base Sentra S is available with a six-speed manual transmission that gets a combined rating of 8.0 L/100 km. Very few buyers will opt for the row-it-yourself gearbox anyway, a component soon to disappear in mainstream cars. During our test, we managed an average of 31 mpg (7.6 L/100 km).
The first ad campaign starring the 2020 Nissan Sentra flaunted its driving dynamics, and while that pretention is a little far-fetched, it’s true that the sedan is more playful than the outgoing generation, with more communicative steering and sharper handling. During more relaxed driving, the cockpit is quiet and the ride is refined for an affordable compact car.
If the cabin’s dimensions are about average in its category, the 2020 Nissan Sentra does offer the best legroom up front, while front headroom is among the best. On the other hand, rear-seat legroom is among the least generous, but the seat cushions are mounted high, which helps comfort. As for the trunk, only the Civic and the Forte can beat its volume of 14.3 cubic feet.
Pricing ranges from $19,310 to $25,235 in the United States, freight and delivery charges not included, and from $18,798 to $26,498 in Canada.
Why You Should Buy a 2020 Nissan Sentra
- The Sentra comes standard with a complete package of advanced safety features, including autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian detection, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross traffic alert, lane departure warning and high beam assist. For those who put safety at the top of their purchase criteria, this is quite interesting.
- The 2020 Nissan Sentra’s cabin dimensions place it about average in its segment, but front-seat legroom is tops, which is good news for taller folks. Meanwhile, a height-adjustable driver’s seat is standard, which is good news for shorter folks.
- Fuel economy is about midpack in the compact sedan segment, but we’re only talking about approximately one mpg or a couple of tenths of a litre compared to the most fuel-efficient rivals. In short, the Nissan is a fuel miser.
- The Sentra offers a good amount of features for the asking price. The best value is the SV trim level, which includes an eight-inch infotainment touchscreen, an intelligent key with remote engine start, 16-inch alloy wheels, dual-zone climate control, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, adaptive cruise control and more. In Canada, heated front seats come standard in the Sentra S with the CVT.
- With improved steering and suspension settings, the 2020 Nissan Sentra is much more enjoyable to drive than before.
Why You Shouldn’t Buy a 2020 Nissan Sentra
- It’s not exactly a chore to park at the shopping mall, but the Sentra has the worst turning diameter in the compact-sedan category.
- Due to its lower roofline compared to the outgoing generation, the new 2020 Nissan Sentra’s headroom is less generous than before.
- Instead of installing the same infotainment system in each trim level, Nissan put a seven-inch touchscreen in the base Sentra S. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration isn’t available in the S trim either, which diminishes its appeal.
- Another cost-cutting measure that annoys us: only the driver’s window includes a one-touch up/down feature. It should only cost a few bucks more to spread this functionality on all four windows, so why not do it? While we’re on the subject of cost cutting, only three colours are available on the Sentra S, white, black and grey—which technically aren’t colours to begin with.
- At least for now, there’s not performance variant of the Sentra, such as a NISMO with more power and better handling, to rival the Jetta GLI, the Forte GT, the Elantra N Line and the soon-to-be discontinued Civic Si.
The 2020 Nissan Sentra has improved considerably over the outgoing generation, with fresh new styling, more technology and standard active safety features. What was once a boring compact sedan has become a very enjoyable car.
That said, and the same story can be told for the redesigned 2021 Nissan Rogue, the Sentra has caught up to the competition, but brings no innovations to shake up the segment. That might be sufficient to help Nissan keep sales running smoothly for its compact model, and it’s a viable alternative for those who don’t want a me-too sedan like the Civic, the Corolla and the Elantra—the U.S. and Canadian markets’ best-selling passenger cars.